Except for the harsh way it ended, it would prove difficult to top what the Skaneateles boys basketball team did in the 2010-11 season.
Propelled by a core of four strong senior starters, the Lakers tore through a 19-2 campaign and claimed the OHSL Liberty division title, only to get upended in the Section III Class B final by a Westhill side it had beaten twice in the regular season.
That defeat was made harsher by the knowledge that those four seniors – Kevin Rice, Paul O’Donnell, Mike Richards and Pat Roberts – would depart, taking with them a wealth of experience, skill, athleticism and leadership.
In short, getting back to a championship level this winter is a taller task for head coach Karl Norris, made a bit easier by the return of Brandon Barron and the increased presence for Jimmy Atkinson and |Ryan McQuiggan, two key reserves from a season ago.
Skaneateles opened the season with a trip north to play OHSL Liberty division foe Hannibal, and saw Atkinson break out during a 63-51 victory over the Warriors.
In essence, the Lakers won the game in the first half, jumping all over Hannibal, especially in a 17-6 surge through the second quarter that produced a 36-19 lead at the break.
Through it all, Atkinson kept getting open outside – and kept converting. He finished with five 3-pointers and 24 points overall, a new career mark.
Offering the inside balance, Barron and McQuiggan both finished with 14 points, while newcomer Austin Gardner chimed in with nine points. In defeat, Hannibal got 14 points from Curtis Baker and 11 points from Austin Bettinger.
Two days later, the Lakers would get its first big test Saturday, meeting Class A power Cortland in the Peppino’s Invitational at Henninger High School. And the Purple Tigers proved too good, beating Skaneateles 63-36.